What is the Difference between Outpatient Treatment and IOP?

While struggling with a relatively new or mild substance use disorder that is not accompanied by any co-occurring mental health or medical disorders, you might benefit from outpatient treatment.

This form of treatment will allow you to receive the ongoing care that you need to overcome your substance use disorder without having to leave your home setting to stay in a drug rehab for a long time period.

Today, research studies have shown that this form of treatment can provide many unique benefits. For instance, you will be able to continue testing the boundaries of your recovery and sobriety on a daily basis once you are done with your treatment sessions.

As you continue working through therapy and counseling, you will still be exposed to triggers - including things, places, and people that used to spur your substance abuse. Since you will be living at home, you can continue challenging these triggers every day. However, the support that you receive from your outpatient treatment program could ensure that you do not relapse.

Understanding Outpatient Treatment Types

There are 2 primary types of outpatient treatment for addiction. They include intensive outpatient programs - or IOPs - and traditional outpatient drug rehab programs. There is also another type of program known as a partial hospitalization program that could help you overcome your substance abuse and addiction.

In this guide, you will learn more about intensive outpatient programs and traditional outpatient programs. Read on to find out more:

1. Traditional Outpatient Treatment

When you choose a traditional outpatient treatment program, you will be able to benefit from the least restrictive type of addiction treatment available in the marketplace today. This means that you will enjoy a greater deal of freedom with respect to the choices you make on a daily basis. Additionally, the program could allow you more free time to come and go as your program dictates.

To this end, this type of outpatient treatment might not be suitable if you have a longstanding or severe history of alcohol and drug abuse. However, it could work ideally if you:

  • Are relatively new to substance abuse and addiction
  • Have a strong support system comprised of family and friends that could motivate you to continue overcoming your addiction
  • Have already been through an intensive inpatient or residential addiction treatment program
  • Have suffered a temporary relapse to drug and alcohol use after a period of sobriety and recovery
  • Need to refresh the sobriety tools and lessons that you learned while enrolled in another treatment program
  • The motivation and strength of will to deal with your substance abuse and addiction on an outpatient basis

NIDA - the National Institute on Drug Abuse - recommends that you should spend a minimum of 90 days in a traditional outpatient treatment program. It is for this reason that most of these programs are measured in terms of months and not days.

2. Intensive Outpatient Programs

Also known as IOPs, intensive outpatient programs is beneficial if your substance abuse and addiction are more than mild or new. Typically, you would be enrolled in such a program if you have also been diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health or medical disorder that could complicate your addiction, or that could be exacerbated by your substance use.

In such a situation, you might not require the round the clock medical care, monitoring, and supervision that is provided through inpatient treatment programs. However, you will still need more intense services that you can find in traditional outpatient treatment programs.

However, intensive outpatient programs are not ideal for everyone who is struggling with a substance use disorder. The best way to determine if it would be the right choice for you would be to undergo thorough assessment and evaluation to check the level of your substance abuse and addiction. The results from these checks could be used to recommend intensive outpatient treatment, regular/traditional outpatient drug rehab, or inpatient addiction treatment.

Most IOPs would typically last longer than 90 days. However, some of these programs could provide you with the option of stepping down the level of care that you receive. This means that you might get to a point where your addiction treatment professionals no longer feel that you need the intense support and supervision that these programs offer. In such a situation, they could recommend that you transfer to a traditional outpatient treatment program to continue working on your long term recovery and sobriety.

Getting Help

As long as you have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder, it is essential that you seek addiction treatment and rehabilitation services. However, you should undergo thorough assessment and evaluation so that you can tell whether you need inpatient, intensive outpatient, or traditional outpatient treatment.






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